Dentist Questions Teeth Grinding

Can tooth grinding be a serious issue for kids?

I heard my daughter grinding her teeth while she was sleeping a few nights ago. I didn't really think anything of it because I know it's a common thing, and that she'll most likely grow out of it. However, my wife thinks differently and that we should get her to her dentist asap to have her fitted for a night guard. Could this really be a serious issue?

15 Answers

Yes it can be a serious problem for children. I have seen some children that have ground off half of the length of their teeth and are on the verge of exposing the nerves of their teeth. Your daughter may have some imbalances in her bite. She may need a custom night guard to wear at night that has balanced flat planned occlusion to protect her teeth. A dentist can have a lab create one with a soft inside and a hard outer shell. Another option is to have her bite evaluated and to have an occlusal adjustment made to correctly balance her teeth which could be causing her jaw to feel the need to clench and grind due to muscles spasms created from lack of balanced support on the left and right sides of the jaw. Another possibility is that if you only see wear on the front teeth she may not be getting enough oxygen at night and could have sleep apnea and be in need of a sleep appliance or C-pap machine. If that is the case you should have a sleep doctor run some tests on her.
Grinding is usually not an issue with kids that requires a mouthguard. However one thing we are seeing recently is that grinding has been associated with other issues including sleep apnea and other otolaryngoscopic issues (large tonsils and adenoid issues). I recommend going to a pediatric dentist to evaluate the dental issues and he or she can talk to you more about those other issues.
Grinding is very common in children but your dentist can best check to see if any damage is being done. Usually it is not addressed with a night guard until all permanent teeth have erupted but you should consult your dentist at the next visit for an opinion.
It depends. Most kids do grow of out of it. The main reason kids grind when they are young is because the shape of the TMJ is still developing and changing due to the growth. The TMJ matures around age 8 when grinding is usually resolved. However, airway issues have to be ruled out as well. During allergy season some kids tend to grind more and that's ok. If it's constant and habitual, then other problems will need to be ruled out. Mouthguards are hard to wear for children and with their growing jaws it can restrict growth.

I would readdress the issue with her dentist and make sure there are no other underlying issues if grinding is persistent.
I don't think your daughter is a candidate for a nightguard. Children's dentition constantly change and compliance is poor. I would take a wait and see approach. If your daughter is complaining she is waking up with pain or suddenly breaking teeth then I would get a dental evaluation.
Generally no
How old is your daughter? Typically it is common for kids to grind. This usually decreases when they start loosing baby teeth because the relationship of their teeth change. Depending on the stage of her teeth and age, there is likely not much that can be done. If she has a full arch of permanent teeth, you should visit the dentist. Otherwise it could wait until the next time she goes in for a cleaning. It's not an emergency.

Hope this helps,

Jossi Stokes, DDS
You are both correct. This is common in many children and most do grow out of it. It is often not too serious of an issue and frequently does not require treatment with a night guard. Some children who do this will also have enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids, sleeping disorders, restlessness, difficulty concentrating in school, and attention deficient disorder (ADD). Those issues should be evaluated by the appropriate doctor and checking the tonsils/adenoids is usually the place to start. If you child has been diagnosed with ADD, I would recommend that they be evaluated by a Sleep Medicine Physician for OSA (obstructive sleep apnea). ADD can be misdiagnosed when the child really has OSA. Treatments are very different.

Keep smiling,

David M. Kaffey, DDS
Some kids have stress, so grinding helps them relieve stress. It is recommended to visit a pediatric dentist.
The sound of teeth grinding at night is concerning. The first question, how old is your daughter? Very young children, up to and including age 7 yrs old have been known to grind their teeth while asleep as a result of teething(their adult molars would be growing in then). Second question, is your daughter sensitive to environmental elements? Children who have post nasal drip/congestion as a result of dry air, allergies, etc do grind their teeth in an attempt to open their airway while sleeping. It would still be a good idea to consult your pediatric dentist to confirm/or rule out teething.
If she has all her permanent teeth, then yes, she needs a night guard.
Rarely is this a problem. Tooth grinding in adults can be tied to stress. In children, it is often related to a changing bite, especially when all the teeth are not fully erupted, or there is what we call a "mixed dentition." That is when some baby teeth remain and all of the permanent teeth have not come in yet, leaving a bite that just doesn't line up properly. Often, when the child is asleep, the brain registers that the bite is not even and grinding occurs to "even things out." In adults, we can make mouth guards to be worn when sleeping to prevent night grinding and damaging teeth. But in children, we would have to make many mouth guards throughout each year of growth. That would be necessary to accommodate the constant growth of the jaws and the shifting of the bite. If that were not done, a mouth guard would stunt the child's jaw growth. Generally, such grinding in children subsides as the permanent teeth come in completely and the bite begins to stabilize. But it is often very stressful for parents to hear the loud sounds when their children are sleeping. That can make them grind their own teeth in frustration!
If your daughter is in a growth stage, then it is not a good time for a night guard. It is common in children and she may or may not grow out of it, but it is not of great concern. If the issue is present when growth is complete, then that would be the time for a guard.
Great question! Most of the time, it is not a problem. Usually, the child outgrows this habit, sometimes can be an early indication of sleep apnea and snoring problems.
Teeth grinding in young children is quite common. It usually occurs when the child is so deeply asleep and the jaw is in a relaxed position. This grinding usually is a way that the teeth adjust to slight interferences as we are growing. Typically they are so soundly asleep that they don't realize it but is something that you notice. Nothing usually has to be done. However, if extensive wear is noticed than something may need to be done to prevent more extensive wear. Your dentist would be able to check this. This grinding is different than the grinding and trauma produced by grinding in older patients. The grinding usually subsides after the eruption of the 1st molars at around 6 years of age.